Largest 2015 Cap Hits By Team: NFC West

Before NFL training camps get underway later this month, we’ll be taking a closer look at the top 2015 cap hits for teams around the league. We began our series in June by focusing on the NFC East and AFC East divisions, before looking at the NFC North, AFC North, and NFC South last week. Earlier this week, we recapped the AFC South, and today we’ll head back to the NFC to examine the West division.

Listed below are the top 10 cap hits for the coming season for each of the four NFC West franchises, accompanied by some observations on the spending habits of those clubs. Let’s dive in….

Arizona Cardinals:

  1. Patrick Peterson, CB: $14,791,491
  2. Calais Campbell, DL: $14,750,000
  3. Larry Fitzgerald, WR: $10,850,000
  4. Jared Veldheer, LT: $8,500,000
  5. Carson Palmer, QB: $7,375,000
  6. Mike Iupati, G: $6,700,000
  7. Daryl Washington, LB: $6,500,000
  8. Jerraud Powers, CB: $5,350,000
  9. Jonathan Cooper, G: $3,967,909
  10. Drew Stanton, QB: $3,866,668
    Total: $82,651,068

Nearly every team in the NFL has one quarterback amongst their top 10 cap hits, but not many have two. The fact that Stanton sneaks into the top 10 shows how much the Cardinals value Palmer’s backup, who held his own when forced into action last season. Of course, by season’s end, neither Palmer nor Stanton was healthy.

While Arizona hopes to get more bang from its buck from its top quarterback in 2015, the team is also waiting to see if it will get anything from Washington, who has yet to be reinstated after being suspended for the entire 2014 season. At $6.5MM, Washington’s cap number is substantial, but it’s not clear yet whether he remains in the club’s plans.

One longtime Cardinal had his contract restructured this season to stay with the team — had he not reworked his deal, Fitzgerald would’ve easily had the highest cap charge on this list, since he initially counted for more than $23MM against the cap. The new figure, less than half that, is much more manageable for Arizona.

San Francisco 49ers:

  1. Colin Kaepernick, QB: $15,265,753
  2. NaVorro Bowman, LB: $7,654,000
  3. Joe Staley, LT: $7,600,000
  4. Ahmad Brooks, OLB: $7,055,000
  5. Vernon Davis, TE: $6,967,920
  6. Anquan Boldin, WR: $6,909,000
  7. Aldon Smith, OLB: $4,854,875
  8. Antoine Bethea, S: $4,750,000
  9. Ray McDonald, DT: $4,609,971 (dead money)
  10. Phil Dawson, K: $4,134,000
    Total: $69,800,519

The one silver lining of all the unexpected retirements that dominated the Niners’ offseason? Many of those players were very well-compensated, so the team’s books look a little cleaner without significant cap charges for veterans like Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, and Anthony Davis.

While those players were removed from San Francisco’s cap, Kaepernick shot up to the top of the list, with his cap hit jumping from $3.767MM in 2014 to $15.266MM this year. The 49ers quarterback has a contract that’s considered very team-friendly, but as long as he remains on the roster, those charges will continue to increase — he’ll be up over $19MM by 2017.

Meanwhile, most teams around the NFL didn’t touch the contracts for players with fifth-year options in 2015, but the Niners took advantage of the fact that those fifth-year salaries weren’t guaranteed by reworking Aldon Smith’s deal. Smith can still earn up to the $9.754MM he was initially set to make, but to maximize his payday he’ll have to stay on the field, earning roster bonuses and incentives.

Seattle Seahawks:

  1. Richard Sherman, CB: $12,200,000
  2. Marshawn Lynch, RB: $8,500,000
  3. Cliff Avril, DE: $8,000,000
  4. Michael Bennett, DE: $8,000,000
  5. Jimmy Graham, TE: $8,000,000
  6. Earl Thomas, S: $7,400,000
  7. Russell Okung, LT: $7,280,000
  8. Percy Harvin, WR: $7,200,000 (dead money)
  9. Brandon Mebane, DT: $5,700,000
  10. Kam Chancellor, S: $5,650,000
    Total: $77,930,000

A look at the names on the Seahawks’ top-10 list shows why the franchise has been one of the league’s most successful in recent years. Many of the players here are Pro Bowlers, while virtually all of them are above-average contributors at their respective positions. And, with a cap hit under $1.7MM, the team’s two-time Pro Bowl quarterback – Russell Wilson – doesn’t even come close to making the cut here.

Even the Seahawks make mistakes though, as the presence of Harvin on this list suggests. The extension he got from the club after being acquired from Minnesota was one of GM John Schneider‘s few missteps, and even after sending the injury-plagued wideout to the Jets, the Seahawks still have to stomach his leftover cap charges for one more year.

As well as the Seahawks have managed their cap, it’s also easy to see why a huge deal for Wilson would upset the balance. With so many players in the $7-8MM range, adding a cap number in the neighborhood of $20MM would make the club’s cap very top-heavy and compromise its flexibility, which makes those extension negotiations even more fascinating.

St. Louis Rams:

  1. Robert Quinn, DE: $16,744,110
  2. Chris Long, DE: $12,500,000
  3. Jared Cook, TE: $8,300,441
  4. Rodger Saffold, G: $8,250,000
  5. Lance Kendricks, TE: $5,600,000
  6. Greg Robinson, LT: $4,837,295
  7. Nick Fairley, DT: $4,750,000
  8. William Hayes, DE: $4,480,000
  9. Kenny Britt, WR: $4,300,000
  10. James Laurinaitis, LB: $4,275,000
    Total: $74,036,846

When discussing the Cardinals above, I noted that Arizona is the rare team with two quarterbacks amongst its top 10 cap hits. The Rams achieve a feat that may be even more unusual, with a pair of tight ends in their top five cap charges. Kendricks’ deal is frontloaded, but it’s still an odd usage of cap room — the guaranteed money on Cook’s deal runs out this year, so I wonder if 2015 will be his last season in St. Louis.

Elsewhere, the Rams’ dedication to their defensive line is obvious here. Besides Quinn and Long at the top, Fairley and Hayes also earn spots on this list, and it’s only a matter of time until Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald earns a massive deal of his own — of course, by that point, Long, Fairley, and Hayes may no longer be in the picture.

The other name here that jumps out at me is Saffold. When the Rams signed him to a lucrative five-year contract last year, I expected him to be used at tackle, but he’s settled in at left guard instead. An $8.25MM cap charge is extravagant for a guard, especially one like Saffold, who probably won’t be earning a Pro Bowl spot anytime soon. But since St. Louis has opted not to spend heavily elsewhere on the line, turning to young, inexpensive players instead, it’s a hit the team can afford.

Information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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2 comments on “Largest 2015 Cap Hits By Team: NFC West

  1. Dallas Robinson

    I really don’t understand the way St. Louis manages its cap. Handing out large contracts to middling players like Cook, Saffold, and Kendricks doesn’t make any sense. It’s true they aren’t spending a ton at QB, CB, or WR this season, but it still doesn’t mean they should be investing heavily in positions like G or TE.

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